2017 Skelly Family Christmas
Shouting in Hopes of a Kindlier Dozen
For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
Thus spake T.S. Eliot in 1942 on the purifying prospects afforded by a new year. Or as B. Henry "Ragtime Texas" Thomas spake in 1927, "Honey, just allow me one more chance ...." Pretty much the same thing.

Most cultures, sooner or later, come up with a New Year type holiday, and the theme always seems to revolve around making a fresh start. Implicit in that yearning is the tacit admission that all we really did in the year just passed was pretty much screw things up, and we would dearly love a chance to take a serious stab at getting it right this time.

According to W. H. Auden (1907 - 1973), most of our species are doomed to just bumbling through our daily lives. In "September 1, 1939" he describes us as, "Lost in a haunted wood, Children afraid of the night, Who have never been happy or good."

Not necessarily a guy you'd want to spend New Year's Eve partying with. But he's right about human resolve. People get a second chance every morning when they get out of bed. And most of us rarely get through a single day with our good intentions intact, despite out best, um, intentions.

Auden, same poem, puts it this way: "Into the ethical life, The dense commuters come, Repeating their morning vow; 'I will be true to the wife, I'll concentrate more on my work.'" And then go through it all again next morning. Rinse, lather, repeat.

According to Harris Interactive, a Rochester, NY research firm, 66% of us have at one time made New Year Resolutions, but only 17% actually keep them throughout the New Year.

Auden offers some hope. "Yet, dotted everywhere, Ironic points of light, Flash out wherever the Just Exchange their messages." He falls back on the hope that even if he can't get it right, he can at least continue to hope for the chance. And maybe that's enough. Lights at the end of the tunnel.

Auden's poetic predecessor, William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) didn't even see the lights. The last three lines of his poem "Under Ben Bulben," written at the far end of his life and a poem reasonably optimistic about the progress of man through association with legends and the arts, read thusly: "Cast a cold eye, On life on Death, Horseman pass by."

Yeats directed (right within the lines of the poem itself) that those three lines be the epitaph etched on his tombstone. He died in the south of France, but they gave him his way. They dragged his body back to Ireland, and you can see his grave today, cum epitaph, in Drumcliffe Churchyard, in the shadow of Benbulbin. (It's a mountain in County Sligo.)

These are our poets, our dreamers? And in their brighter, more optimistic moments? Good intentions about good intentions. And for what? For the promise of repetitive failure. Take all the second chances you want.

Thomas Hood, yet another of our literary cousins from the British Isles, put a slightly different spin on the subject. He thought it was largely a matter of luck, and he may have been onto something.

"And ye, who have met with Adversity's blast, And been bow'd to the earth by its fury; To whom the Twelve Months, that have recently pass'd Were as harsh as a prejudiced jury - Still, fill to the Future! and join in our chime, The regrets of remembrance to cozen, And having obtained a New Trial of Time, Shout in hopes of a kindlier dozen."

So what it really comes down to is not just to get a second chance but to get a second chance and have Fortune smile on you. In other words, maybe get lucky.

Hood (1799 - 1845) wrote regularly for the London literary magazines and achieved wide acclaim during his lifetime as author, poet and humorist. One contemporary dubbed him "the finest English poet between the generations of Shelley and Tennyson."

So Hood knew something about luck, in fact doubly so: lucky in that he was able to gain fame while still among the quick and lucky in that he filled a void between two generations in either of which the competition for greatness might have been far more intense. Unlucky in that he suffered from chronic poor health. He was an invalid by age 41 and a corpse by age 45. Fame was fleeting.

But the point is, you are probably not going to change. The things you've been getting wrong all these years? You're probably going to continue to get them wrong in the future. Even so, we all crave and need the hope that our resolutions provide us, if only to give our lives some purpose and direction. Even though in the long run that very need just reminds us of our shortcomings. So the trick is to live long enough to finally catch a break. Daft Punk nailed it. Law of averages sort of thing (actually those guys were French.)

And there you have it: your game plan for 2018 and for all the years that follow. Rinse, lather, repeat. Continue to resolve to improve. Don't worry if you should fall short. Again and yet again. Just be sure to live long enough so that you're still around when the good ship Good Fortune has a chance to finally make your port. Thus making you, at long last, a better man (woman) than all your good intentions.

Happy New Year. Long life to you.

And good luck.

Ninth Annual Skelly Family Christmas Video
Season's Greetings

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2016 Index:
Dec. 10-2.92   Dec. 15-3.12   Dec. 20-3.77   Dec. 25-4.13

2017 Index:
Dec. 10-3.2   Dec. 15-3.41   Dec. 20 -4.11  Right now: 4.18

Season Stats to Date ...

Current Christmas Spirit breakdown:
45%
10%
14%
9%
4%
4%
12%

12/10/17:
Slightly under average for the index, and notably less traffic than usual at the voting machine.

12/15/17:
Evidently it's beginning to look a lot more like Christmas.. Better than last year at this time anyways.

12/20/17:
A bunch of Republicans must have showed up, all excited about their tax cuts. After a slow start, one of the higher expressions of Christmas Spirit enthusiasm recorded here going back to 2008.

12/25/17:
Highest index score since 2013. I guess it really was a Merry Christmas.
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